13 Reasons Why's Ajiona Alexus: Morality and Movies

Spoilers ahead!

If there's one 13 Reasons Why character whose morals are complex to navigate, it's Sheri Holland. Between her sweet demeanor and cruel mistakes, Sheri's psyche is as tricky as it is human. The actress behind Sheri, up-and-coming actress Ajiona Alexus, is more straightforward. From her budding music career to her extensive acting portfolio, Ajiona shines in her commitment to contributing to the arts. Lithium editor-in-chief Olivia Ferrucci spoke with Ajiona about breaking into the industry and being consistent for our May issue.

Lithium: You play Sheri Holland in 13 Reasons Why. Can you tell us a bit about your character?
Ajiona: So, Sheri-- she’s the captain of the cheerleading team. She’s very kind and considerate, [and she] made a mistake that she definitely [regrets]. She thought she could fix it, and she couldn’t. I feel like she probably went about it the wrong way. But I will say, of all the characters, Sheri is the one that feels the most remorse about her mistake.

Lithium: Originally, your character’s name was Jenny in the book. Any reason for the name change?
Ajiona: No, I don’t think there was any specific reason for it. I believe the writers just changed it. But they definitely added more to [Sheri’s] character in the series.

Lithium: You’ve posted numerous singing videos on YouTube. How did you get into music? Is it something you’d like to pursue further?
Ajiona: Yes, yes, yes, of course! Music is definitely something I’m very passionate about. I grew up in a family of singers. It was something we always did when we got together. No matter the time or place, my family always would sing in perfect harmony. You’d be surprised! But growing up, I always knew that I wanted to be an entertainer. It’s something I’ve worked at my entire life. I would sing in the bathroom all night and all day until I would perfect a song. Like, my mom would have to tell me to be quiet! Right now, I’m actually in the process of writing my EP project and I am so very excited about it! I can’t wait to share it with everyone [and] show another side of me.

Lithium: What was the casting process like?
Ajiona: It honestly wasn’t anything too hectic. I did two test tapes. At the time, I was in Atlanta, Georgia, and my agency was in L.A. and they sent me an audition for it. The first thing they sent me was really short, probably five lines in all. I recorded it and sent it in and a few days later, they sent me a callback. It was more of a serious thing, [and] about two weeks later, I got the call that I got the part!

Lithium: The show definitely approaches the line between entertainment and real life, in part due to the heavy subject matter and how authentically it is portrayed. Did that boundary ever become apparent while filming?
Ajiona: Yeah, of course. The production team and the cast, we were all very aware of how deep the subject matter was. I remember [when we would finish a table read for an episode], so many of us would be in tears because of how authentic it was. It was so raw. I could honestly picture everything happening as I was reading it. There wasn’t anything being sugarcoated in this show. All of [these issues] needed to be addressed. I’m just honored to be a part of the show and to be a part of something that’s not trying to impress people, but more so impact people. Our entire team [was] so supportive throughout the entire shooting process. They offered therapy [and] everything you could think of to make sure [we] were comfortable and that we all felt like a big family. I was just happy to be a part of the experience.

Lithium: What do you think the most realistic aspect of the show’s high school environment is?
Ajiona: I would honestly say that . . . everything outside of the fourth wall was real. I think they did a very good job of creating a realistic show. They were very true and honest to the subject and they nailed it.

Lithium: What would be your biggest piece of advice to young women looking to break into the industry?
Ajiona: Consistency is key. That’s always one of my main things. Don’t let your circumstances define who you are or what you’re capable of being able to do and most importantly, stick to what you believe in and never settle for less. Always know your worth. When you have a clear vision and you know exactly what it is you want to do, I think it’s easier for people to help you build your brand and your dreams instead of getting distracted. And always, always, always keep God first. He will take you further than you could ever imagine.

Lithium: Was it easy for you to navigate Sheri’s moral ideology? Do you agree with the way she handled things?
Ajiona: No, it definitely wasn’t easy knowing that she killed Jeff. She definitely didn’t go about it the right way because she didn’t call the police at the exact moment that it happened. So, I mean, we don’t know if she caused it for sure. Here’s a good person-- you know, good people, they make bad decisions. They mess up. But I don’t feel like that makes [someone] a bad person. I think it’s what you do after you make the mistake. I think that’s a thing that all of the characters struggle with. Your mistakes don’t define you. It’s what you do after the mistake that defines you.

Lithium: Can you talk a bit about working with the cast?
Ajiona: We are honestly one big family! We get along so well. We have so many group chats going on in our phones right now, just [planning to] go out and get dinner or go bowling, skating . . . honestly, we’re just a true family. I love every single one of my castmates. We get along so well. Some of us even went to Coachella together!

Lithium: What’s next for you?
Ajiona: Well, I actually have three films [being released] this year. They’re called Acrimony, Family Blood, and Something Like Summer. And along with that, like I said, I’m working on my music, so I’ll definitely have some music videos and probably some little tours and performances when I can. I’m still auditioning and whatnot, and I’ll always incorporate community service and public speaking [into my life] just to inspire the youth in any way that I can so that my journey can help other people.

13 Reasons Why is now streaming on Netflix.